Visualizing a luxury watch spearheads a new direction for esteemed London creative production studio Saddington Baynes. We ask the team for their top CGI tips.
The story of Saddington Baynes begins in London in the early 90s. Founders Chas Saddington and Dick Baynes formed the company to retouch photos the old-fashioned way, with chemicals instead of computers. As technology and the industry progressed, Saddington Baynes was among the first studios to move away from the darkroom and into digital. Today, the team creates incredible imagery with V-Ray for Maya.
"We've utilized V-Ray for the last ten years," explains CEO, Chris Christodoulou — who was also one of the company's first digital artists. “There are certainly other great renderers out there, but when you balance the need for quality with productivity in a fast-moving studio like ours, then V-Ray is still the best overall renderer we can choose. We’re very happy with it."
A new change is underway at Saddington Baynes: The company is focusing on a direct-to-brand approach providing photoreal, flexible assets and imagery for luxury labels. In order to demonstrate their expertise in crafting sensational imagery, they turned to Art Director, Luis Cardoso, to spearhead production for their recent SBLABS Panerai Luminor watch campaign.
Here, Luis talks us through how he used V-Ray for Maya to visualize this top-end timepiece.
Why did you choose that particular watch?
Luis Cardoso: Personal preference definitely played a part – I love the Luminor’s aesthetic. It’s a change from what the studio’s already produced, moving away from stainless steel bezels and dark faces, and focusing on the rose gold material of this particular model.
How did you model the watch?
LC: As Panerai Luminor was an R&D project – from our SBLABS branch, as we fondly call it – it’s unlikely that we’d have the brand’s data. Instead, we take references from the internet and model from scratch. This is great training for the team and really shows off our skills!
Scale can be a tricky beast, especially because watches have specific caliber sizes. We had a basic idea of the diameter of the watch and built it from there. Modeling this particular watch model was a challenge due to its color being a solid block, as well as the detailed crown and side lock.
R&D allows us to trial and test different creative techniques. With this watch, the interior has a recessed face and debossed numbers, which can be pretty time consuming to model. When we began the project, I ran a test to see if I could replicate modeling assets (numbers in this case) using a 16-bit TIF image and the displacement modifier in V-Ray for 3ds Max — and it worked a treat!
We ended up using displacement, either in V-Ray for 3ds Max or Maya, throughout the project, even for the strap – where instead of modeling the stitches, I painted them on using a displacement texture.
We train our artists to follow the rules of photography, because if you break the rules of photography, you break the image.
Luis Cardoso, Saddington Baynes
And what's your approach to setting up the camera?
LC: At Saddington Baynes, we train our artists to follow the rules of photography, because if you break the rules of photography, you break the image. Small changes can have a big impact on the overall picture and our eye instinctively detects when something looks wrong. The most common mistake with CGI is when the depth of field has been forced.
If you use real camera parameters and don't force anything to happen, use the right lens on the right scale and the correct aperture, you get the photographic effect naturally. This really does make all the difference. Also, I use bokeh every time I use depth of field, so it feels like it was taken with a camera. I always create my images as if I were capturing the imagery on a camera.